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Saturday 2 October 2021

The Golden Age: Where Are They Now? Part 5

  Early Detectives– Forgotten, Remembered, or Made different
Part 5: Hannasyde and Hemmingway; Sir John Appleby

by Carol Westron

In Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this exploration of the fate of early detectives, all of which were popular and widely read in the Golden Age, we considered Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Thorndyke, Father Brown, Detective Inspectors Furnival & Stoddard, Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey, Inspector French, Roger Sheringham, Miss Marple, Miss Silver, Simon Templar, Albert Campion, Alan Grant, Robert Macdonald, Bobby Owen and Roderick Alleyn. In this section we will look at three more Golden Age detectives (two of whom appear in the same series), who were all well-known in their time, and assess whether their fame has endured.

Detective Superintendent Hannasyde & Detective Sergeant (later Inspector and Chief Inspector) Hemingway (1935-1953) by Georgette Heyer.

Georgette Heyer was primarily a writer of Georgian and Regency romances, however she also wrote twelve novels of detective fiction, eight of which featured her Scotland Yard detectives, Hannasyde and Hemingway. In the first four books featuring them, Hannasyde and Hemingway work together: Superintendent Hannasyde is the Senior Investigating Officer and Hemingway is his sergeant. In the last four books, Hemingway has been promoted to Detective Inspector and is in charge of the investigation and Hannasyde has either a small cameo role or does not appear at all.

Death in the Stocks (1935) was Heyer's third mystery novel and in it she introduced Superintendent Hannasyde and Sergeant (later Inspector, then Chief Inspector) Hemingway. The first time the reader meets Hannasyde he is described as a man of obvious intelligence and integrity, 'a middle-aged man with hair slightly grizzled at the temples, and a square, good-humoured face in which a pair of rather deep-set eyes showed a lurking twinkle behind their gravity,'' while Hemingway is ‘a cheerful person with a bright eye and a persuasive manner.’ However, in this first outing of her professional detectives, Hannasyde and Hemingway do not solve the crime; that honour is accorded to Giles Carrington, a young solicitor.

Despite this, Heyer does not make her police detectives foolish, both Hannasyde and Hemingway are intelligent, professional officers as are many of their subordinates. Hannasyde and Hemingway have a good working relationship, and in the books featuring them, after the first adventure, it is the police who work out who committed the crime. Hannasyde and Hemingway are both working class men who have worked their way up the ranks by intelligence and hard work, Hannasyde is a man of solid abilities with an air of authority, while Hemingway is fond of lively repartee, even when he reaches the rank of Chief Inspector and is in charge of the investigation. Little is mentioned about Hannasyde’s hobbies but Hemingway is a livelier character whose interest in psychology colours his views on his job:

‘“It’s a funny thing, but whenever you come up against any of these reforming chaps they always have it fixed in their minds you must be a walking lump of vice. You can’t persuade ’em otherwise either. What you might call a Fixation.”

Hannasyde, who knew that the Sergeant’s study of his favourite subject had led his adventurous feet into a strange realm of bastard words and lurid theories, intervened hastily, and asked for an account of his day’s labours.’ (A Blunt Instrument, 1938.)

In No Wind of Blame (1939) Hemingway has been made an Inspector and leads the investigation, and Hannasyde appears only briefly, in a phone call, in which Hemingway asks him to have somebody at Scotland Yard check up some relevant information. Even in this brief conversation, it is evident that the balance of responsibility has shifted; Hannasyde is till Hemingway’s superior officer but Hemingway is far less under his control than when he was a sergeant.

Although Scotland Yard is only called in two-thirds of the way through No Wind of Blame, it is with Hemingway’s arrival that the book develops from a comedy of manners with a murder thrown in and becomes a professional police investigation, even though it is flavoured by his Hemingway’s quirky way of considering things. The description of his arrival sums up his lively personality: 'On the afternoon of the following day a brisk and bright-eyed Inspector from the Criminal Investigation Department arrived in Fritton, accompanied by an earnest young Sergeant, and several less distinguished assistants.

Neither Inspector Cook nor Superintendent Small viewed with much pleasure the prospect of handing over their case to the Inspector from London, but Inspector Hemingway, when he arrived, disarmed hostility by a certain engaging breeziness of manner, which had long been the despair of his superiors.

“Nice goings on in the country!” said Inspector Hemingway... “Mind you, I don't say I'm not going to like the case. It looks to me a very high-class bit of work, what with rich wives and Russian princes, and I don't know what besides.”

Hemingway treats his rural colleagues with tact and respect, but he is not altogether impressed by their investigative powers, especially in the matter of rigorously checking alibis.

‘“… Statement corroborated by the doctor’s housekeeper. Well that’s very nice I’m sure. What made her so certain of the time?”

“She hadn’t any doubt. When I asked her, she said at once the Prince arrived before five o’clock.”“How did she know?”
Inspector Cook looked a little taken aback. “She didn’t hesitate. She said the Prince arrived before the doctor got back from a case he’d been called out to, and it was a few minutes before five o’clock.”

“That’s the kind of airy statement I like to see checked up on,” said Hemingway.’

Hemingway’s other hobby is the theatre and amateur dramatics, and theatrical terms run through his speech and colour his approach to his investigations, as when he often refers to the witnesses and suspects as the ‘dramatis personae’.

After the creation of her two series detectives, Heyer wrote only one detective novel that does not feature one or both of them. Unlike the bright comedy of manners books that feature Hannasyde and Hemingway, Penhallow (1942) is a grim and melancholy book that has been described as 'a murder story but not a mystery story.' The reason for this is simple: the majority of Heyer's mysteries had always been published by Hodder & Stoughton but Heyer felt that a representative of the publishing house had patronised her. Unable to escape from her contract without penalties, she wrote Penhallow, which had the intended effect; Hodder & Stoughton rejected the book (as did Heyer's US publisher) and this ended her contract with the firm. Penhallow was later published by Heinemann. Heyer was far too wise to waste her Scotland Yard series detectives in this book but in 1953 she wrote Duplicate Death, which was also published by Heinemann, and in this she returned to her previous style and Hemingway was the officer in charge of the case.

Excluding Penhallow, Hemingway is the Senior Investigating Officer in the last four of Heyer’s detective novels, and it is only in the penultimate book featuring him, Duplicate Death (1953) that his first name is revealed as Stanley. In conversation it is revealed that he is married, but no other information is offered regarding either his or Hannasyde’s personal lives. Hemingway is one of the most likeable of the Golden Age detectives and one of the most underrated. Lively, intelligent and humorous, he is a very down-to-earth character with a ready wit and a pleasant manner, although this does not always endear him to the less empathic of his colleagues and subordinates:

‘The higher Hemingway rose in the department, the more important the cases that were entrusted to him, the less could Inspector Pershore understand the rules governing such promotion. he could not be brought to believe that anyone as incorrigibly flippant as the Chief Inspector could be what he called an efficient officer. He had been heard to express his astonishment at what the Chief Inspector’s superiors put up with, and would certainly have been staggered to learn that no less a personage than the Assistant Commissioner had once said: “Put Hemingway on to it! He’ll threaten to resign - but he’ll bring home the bacon!”’ (Duplicate Death, 1953).

Heyer's detective novels were never as popular as her historical romances (the romances usually sold in the region of 115,000 books while the detective stories averaged 16,000), which means that even when they were first published they were often underrated, although not by all critics. Dorothy L. Sayers wrote of them: 'Heyer's characters and dialogue are an abiding delight to me ... I have seldom met people to whom I have taken so violent a fancy from the word "Go."' In my opinion, this is a very fair assessment: Hannasyde is a likeable detective very much in the Golden Age tradition and Hemingway is a more inspired creation: a working class detective who moves fearlessly through investigations of murders set in a higher class than his own and approaches suspects with tact but candour, usually with a humorous quip on his lips.

Not all of Heyer’s detective novels have stood the test of time, but some of them deserve to be remembered. In my opinion, the best of all is Envious Casca (1941), (also republished under the blander title The Christmas Party), in which Inspector Hemingway uses all his people reading skills to reveal the killer at a family Christmas gathering.

Hannasyde and Hemingway are very much forgotten detectives but the books featuring them are still available in paperback and on Kindle and are well worth reading.

Sir John Appleby (1936-1986) by Michael Innes

Michael Innes is the pseudonym of John Innes Mackintosh Stewart, a Professor of English Literature and a notable academic, who started writing detective fiction as a way of augmenting his income.

John Appleby is Innes' chief detective creation and, at the start of his stories, he is a young detective inspector at Scotland Yard, who first appears as the investigating officer in Death At the President's Lodging (1936). It is typical of this most academic of authors that the first description of Appleby is not of his physical appearance but his role within the society of his time:

‘For Appleby was the efficient product of a more ‘developed’ age … an age in which our civilization, multiplying its elements by division, has produced, amid innumerable highly-specialized products, the highly-specialized criminal and the highly-specialized detector of crime. Nevertheless, there was something more in Appleby than the intensely taught product of a modern police college. A contemplative habit and a tentative mind, poise as well as force, reserve rather than wariness - these were the tokens perhaps of some underlying, more liberal education. It was a schooled but still free intelligence that was finally formidable in Appleby...’

Appleby is a quiet, eminently civilised man. He came from middle-class origins in the Midlands and won a scholarship to Oxford. He is well-educated and erudite and his insight into literature and art often provides the vital clue to enlighten the case he is investigating; he moves with ease amongst the aristocracy and academics that he has to investigate. In Appleby's End (1945), he falls in love with and marries Judith Raven, a sculptress who is part of an aristocratic family, and she helps him investigate several cases, as does their son in later books. After his marriage Appleby retires for the first time but was involved in two investigations as a civilian. He then reappeared a in A Private View (1952) as Sir John Appleby, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. The crime writer Julian Symons described Innes as a 'farceur' and, in Myself and Michael Innes (1987), Innes acknowledges that he has attempted 'to bring a little fantasy and fun into the detective story,' his reason being that, 'Detective stories are purely recreational reading, after all, and needn't scorn the ambition to amuse as well as puzzle.' It is evident that Innes took little account of credibility or continuity in the details of the series he created, and Appleby’s meteoric rise is neither chronicled nor excused by his creator. Even after his second retirement when he is officially a civilian, Appleby becomes involved in a large number of cases and leads the official investigators in the right direction.

Appleby is one of the longest lived protagonists in detective fiction. and continued for fifty years until his last case, Appleby and the Ospreys in 1986. This excludes his appearance in short story collections, the last of which, Appleby Talks About Crime, was published in 2010. He is featured in thirty-three novels and five short story collections. From their first publication, the Appleby books have been much admired; indeed Edmund Crispin adopted his pseudonym from a character in the second Appleby novel, Hamlet Revenge (1937).

The Appleby novels are still read and admired by those who enjoy more erudite detective fiction but, because of their length and large amount of detailed, rather heavy, description, the novels are not as popular as they once were. Nevertheless, they are still widely available in paperback and on Kindle.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts
click on the title.  

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